"For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow."Ecclesiastes 1:18
Lately most sermons seem to depress me. I don't know if it's the content, or the tone. Maybe it's just the format of a sermon--a guy gets up there and talks about what he wants to tell you about a passage for a while, and you get to sit and figure out how that's supposed to fix your life.
This morning I heard a very evangelical sermon on the good news of how there really is a point to life after all, and sure enough, it's to fear God, and keep His commandments. (The text was Psalm 25.)
Somehow this message reminded me of all those people who say religion is a crutch--"whatever gets you through the night" and all that. People need meaning in their lives. The sermon this morning was basically about how you find that as a Christian.
Those who claim not to need a crutch find meaning for themselves. They say there's no real meaning to the universe, but the meaning we create is good enough. We just have to brave enough to accept that that's all there is.
The Christian counters by saying that we have to be humble enough to accept the meaning that is there.
It's a cruel dilemma, don't you think? Do you take up a crutch out of humility or do you embrace the absurd out of courage? Both humility and courage are good, but both weakness and absurdity are evil, are they not?
I think I hear voices telling me, oh, but it doesn't matter what's more courageous or more humble, does it? What's important is which belief is true.
But let's get real, here. Who believes anything about God or the meaning of life without evaluating it using some moral compass? We all want to know what's good, not just what's "fact."
Sometimes, though, it seems like what's good is just wishful thinking, and what's true is depressing.
After all, no matter how joyful a Christian may be that one day Jesus will come again, the fact is, he hasn't so far, and it's been 2000 years. There has been a lot of destruction and evil in that time. How can you avoid feeling some bitterness?
And no matter how certain an atheist might be that life is worth living only for the meaning we create, the fact is that if there is no transcendent meaning, then life is still a joke after all. How can you avoid getting depressed?
The Greek philosophers had this triad they liked to talk about--truth, beauty, and the good. But what happens when in the real world these three are torn apart from one another? We all want them to be the same, but they're not. Not now.
So what can I do with all the knowledge I've gained about just how far from good life really is? What do I do when there don't seem to be any answers--when all the good answers seem false, and all the true answers seem evil?
Somehow the image of Jesus stretched out on his cross comes to mind.
The mind craves harmony between truth, beauty, and goodness. If that harmony isn't there, what else can the mind do other than take up its cross and follow Jesus? It must stretch out its left hand toward the good, and its right toward the truth, and nail itself firmly in place.
Then it must bear the crucifixion--that horrifying tension between what we hope for and what we see.